I can’t even begin to describe the elation I felt when I received my acceptance to Wesleyan. I grew up in a conservative area, and while I enjoyed being in my comfort zone around people who share my ideologies, I was eager to get out into the world and learn about new perspectives while still maintaining my own. In my mind, liberal arts schools were places of intellectual discussion, where Democrats and Republicans could talk about their political opinions openly and have mutual respect for one another. I guess one could say I was an incredibly naïve high school senior.

In the short time that I have been a student here at the University, I can’t say that I have felt accepted by others in regard to my political alignment. Yes, I am a Republican. When I told my peers I was writing this article, the most common response I received was, “Do you want everyone to hate you?” If this doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does. Wesleyan is supposed to be a place where students are open and inclusive of others. Unfortunately, it seems that adage only applies to people who share the same ideas.

I first encountered the negativity that apparently comes with identifying as a conservative during orientation. When I revealed myself to be religious to my new friend, I was asked if that meant I was also a Republican. When I answered yes, the boy seemed very happy and said that while he was not a Republican, he was glad he had one to talk to. The next thing he said was, “Aren’t gender norms great?” Shocked that someone would say something like that, I told him that I most definitely did not agree, to which he said, “But you just said you’re a Republican.” I found that in every conversation we shared afterward, he thought it was acceptable to make sexist comments and justify them by pointing out that I’m a Republican, as if that were a concrete reason to say such things in front of me. He never asked why I identify as a Republican or what I think of certain policies. He simply equated the party with misogyny.

Furthermore, I was eating lunch with another student whom I had met during my first week at the University. When I revealed that I am a conservative, a look of horror formed on her face. I quickly said that everyone should be entitled to their own opinion, to which she responded, “Yes, but not when yours is wrong.” Obviously insulted by this, I asked her to elaborate and she said that being a Republican means that I hate gay marriage and love Trump. I explained that this is a myth; many Republicans such as myself are not, in fact, opposed to gay marriage. Furthermore, many, myself included, are not voting for Trump and will be voting for Hillary Clinton instead, as we do not want someone possessing so much hatred to be in the White House. My friend then asked why I registered as a Republican, and I told her that while I do disagree with many aspects of the platform, my views ultimately align with the party. When I began to explain why I am fiscally conservative, she interrupted, saying, “Oh, I don’t really care about that kind of stuff.”

We’ve come to a point in time where liberalism has become viewed as a synonym for being humane while conservatism is equated with hostility. Since this is my first year on campus, I have no way of knowing if this stems from the fact that Donald Trump is (unfortunately) the Republican presidential candidate. I’ve come to realize that people don’t care about why I am conservative. All that matters to them is the fact that I am a conservative. Students here have to understand that people have their reasons for voting a certain way. While I identify as center-right on the political spectrum, others seem to think that identifying as a conservative means I am on the far, far right and that I adore Trump. Thankfully, I have met some students who are genuinely interested in having discussions and want to know more about my views. However, that group is far exceeded by the amount of people who have made offensive comments.

In President Roth’s State of the School Address, he said that it is a shame that conservative students on campus often feel marginalized. Wesleying live-blogged the speech and ridiculed him for discussing how conservatives feel when he should have been focusing on minority groups. The fact is, President Roth was not trying to belittle others’ struggles. He was simply discussing another aspect of the school. This, however, did not sit well with students, which is exactly the reason why Roth felt the need to bring it up.

I’m not saying that all Republicans feel the way I do. Many are homophobic, racist, sexist, supporters of Donald Trump, and I would be lying if I said I had never met anyone who thought this way. Still, it is wrong to make generalizations about the whole party and assume that all Republicans are bad people.

I don’t expect people to become Republicans simply by reading this, and by no means do I want them to become Republicans. I can understand why people are Democrats and I have nothing but respect for them, because everyone should be able to express their viewpoints. We all deserve respect from our peers that is independent from the popularity of our political beliefs within a particular environment.

Zenilman is a member of the class of 2020.

  • Junior Repub

    Fantastic article about a real problem on campus. Revealing to others that I am a registered republican has previously led people to ask me “oh so you hate women,”

  • Robert Melchreit ’18

    I can definitely empathize with the sentiment of hostility towards conservatives and Republicans on campus, but I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

    One of the biggest problems with our school (and most other American universities) is that sympathy is treated like a currency. There is an entire economy revolving around the exchange of sympathy: people work for it, beg for it, and distribute it to those they consider most deserving. People are constantly trying to impress others with their oppression status to prove themselves worthy of sympathy and attention.

    This culture of victimhood is a characteristically Leftist paradigm. One of the most noble attributes (in my opinion) of conservatism is its lack of the sympathy economy. The author of this article occasionally strays a bit too far towards said culture for my liking. I hope Wesleyan conservatives won’t someday devolve into blogging sob stories. Let’s abstain from the Oppression Olympics.

    Overall, well written and insightful article.

    • Betterwould

      Don’t forget the related campus disdain for Christians.

  • ’17

    “Conservative” shouldn’t be a dirty word, but there are many valid and interrelated reasons why people don’t react well when you say you’re a Republican:

    1) “Fiscally conservative” doesn’t mean responsible spending in contemporary American parlance; it means taking away critical aid for the destitute in our society and providing loopholes for the most financially privileged. It means cutting support for the vast majority while shuttling that money to the most powerful minority.

    2) Republicans have a track record of hating minority races, justifying violence against black and brown people, ignoring police brutality, and not believing in white privilege despite its reality.

    3) Republicans most often deny science, with anthropogenic climate change and evolution being the major culprits.

    4) Republicans support the terrorist policies of Israel against the native population of the region because they believe that a record of settlement over two thousand years ago, tenuously linked to a largely European population that has comparatively little genetic descent from that record of settlement, should override the real lives and real homes of people who have been living there, without pause, for thousands of years. These policies include settlements further encroaching on the homes of the natives and large-scale killings of innocents as a way to scare the natives into submission, with all of these policies due to the Israel’s actionable belief that the life of an Israeli is worth more than the life of a Palestinian.

    5) Republicans bomb the innocent of the global south and the global east and write it off as “collateral damage” even more than Democrats do. Similarly, they support the destabilization of governments in exchange for “American interests” even more than Democrats do.

    6) Republicans don’t believe in respecting the religious rights or liberty of any religion besides Christianity (and sometimes, grudgingly, Judaism).

    7) Republicans have a belief in “American Exceptionalism,” despite the fact that being born in America is a random circumstance of chance and therefore not an accomplishment.

    8) Republicans don’t believe in protecting people fleeing the horrors of war, again due to both hatred and the random circumstance of birth.

    9) Republicans destabilized the Middle East post-9/11, allowing the Republican VP’s oilfield services company to increase its leverage and monetary potential.

    10) Republicans very often don’t understand that the constitution of the United States prohibits the US from being a “Christian country.”

    11) Republicans do not believe in universal healthcare despite every civilized country in the world implementing it with success and for less money than the US spends on healthcare.

    12) Republicans demonize undocumented immigrants, despite the demonstrable facts that undocumented immigrants pay taxes while not being able to receive benefits, and also refuse to fix a broken immigration policy that forces people to come undocumented.

    These are not fringe beliefs; they are mainstream positions of the Republican Party. All of these are interrelated because they hinge on one core Republican belief: that some lives are worth more than others. This belief and its ramifications are justifiably hated. Sure, the left, even at Wesleyan, can be as willfully blind as the right, but give Wesleyan students the credit they’re due: they’re smart, and they can see through obfuscation.

    • Boon

      The problem you have just illustrated is that many liberals on campus simply believe republicans are guilty of wrong think. Not that they have different values, but wrong values, and that it is perfect acceptable, appropriate even, to shun and ridicule the offender. You believe the students at Wesleyan are mostly liberal because they are smart and understand the difference between correct opinions and incorrect opinions.

      I have no interest in refuting your 12 points because the fact that you wrote them proves my point. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if you yourself agree with everything I have said with the exception of my description of the situation as a problem.

      It seems to me a core liberal belief that tolerance is a virtue, with the exception that we should not tolerate intolerance(things like racism and discrimination). But when things like fiscal conservatism, not supporting universal healthcare, and in fact republicanism and by extension republicans in general are labelled hateful and intolerant, and then clearly deserving of intolerance, scorn, ridicule. It is cause enough for me to stop and wonder where we went wrong.

    • Man with Axe

      Fiscally conservative also means caring that the national debt is $20 trillion, and understanding that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

      The Democratic Party is the party of slavery, Jim Crow, and the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Democrat presidents started WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. A Democrat president dropped nuclear bombs on Japan.

      Democrats deny the science of genetically modified organisms, vaccines, the heritability of IQ, especially as it applies to sex differences at the right tail of the bell curve, and studies of fetal pain, and the safety of the nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain. And they refuse to consider scientific evidence of climate change that points away from carbon dioxide.

      Democrats support Israel about as much as Republicans do. From the Democratic platform: “A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality,
      tolerance, and pluralism. That is why we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself, including by retaining its qualitative military edge, and oppose any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.” Both Clintons are vocal supporters of Israel.

      No Republican has bombed anyone for 8 years. Obama has bombed plenty. And don’t forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Dresden. And Operation Desert Fox. And thousands of drone attacks.

      Democrats believe that religious rights should take second place to discrimination law, except for Islam. A Christian baker must bake a cake for a gay wedding. But a Muslim baker? Not so much. Democrats think it’s okay that in many Muslim countries no other religions are allowed, women are subservient, and gays are put to death. That’s “multiculturalism.”

      Democrats don’t understand that American exceptionalism refers to the remarkable circumstance that it is the only country based on a creed, not on blood and soil. A person of any nationality can come here and be an American if he accepts that creed.

      FDR refused to allow Jewish refugees from Hitler into the country. Republicans tend to support the policy of protecting people in their own nations or regions. What has Obama done for the tens of millions of displaced Syrians? Letting a few thousand into the US does nothing for the vast majority. They should be provided safe havens in the middle east, where they know the language and the culture.

      Dick Cheney’s alleged Halliburton profits pale in comparison to Hillary and Bill Clinton’s hundreds of millions they received from selling her office to the highest bidder, including foreign nations.

      If Republicans need a reminder that the Constitution prohibits a Christian country, Democrats need a reminder that the president is not a dictator, even if he does have a phone and a pen. He can’t unilaterally change the immigration laws, or change the terms of the Affordable Care Act.

      Universal health care? Why not make food, clothing, and shelter free as well? These are also necessary for life. Democrats don’t understand that making health care free creates massive disincentives that result in long waits for surgery and other dislocations.

      “Undocumented immigrants,” as you call them, lack permission to be in the country, not mere documents. Democrats have no sympathy for those potential immigrants who are willing to obey the law and so must wait for years to immigrate, while the illegals jump the queue and then demand rights.

      Democrats value some lives more than others. For example, they don’t care one little bit about the 18 million black babies aborted since 1973, about 50% of the current black population. They care more about the delta smelt.

      • Calcite

        Pointing to the evils of Democrats does nothing to absolve the evils of Republicans, and therefore does nothing to make people hate Republican beliefs less, man who trolls newspapers of various elite colleges via Disqus.

      • Man with Axe

        Of course pointing to the evils of Democrats does a lot to absolve the evils of Republicans. It shows that Republicans are human, just as Democrats are, and neither side has a monopoly on the truth or, for that matter, on self-serving or destructive behavior. People are not “evil” because they believe things you don’t. They are especially not evil if they believe things you also believe, but don’t realize you believe.

        The commenter to whom I reacted was making the point that Republicans do x, y, and z, and believe a, b, and c. But, it turns out, so do Democrats on virtually every issue he mentions. So where is the sting of his argument? If a self-identified Democrat hates Republicans for doing and believing what Democrats also do and believe, he has emotional problems. His education would benefit from trying to understand Republicans (virtually half the country) rather than to anathematize them.

        As for me “trolling” newspapers, if “trolling” means reading and making comments on the comment section, I’m guilty as charged. I would have thought students at elite colleges would like the discussion. Or do they only want to hear from their friends how great their articles were, or from commenters who agree with them 100%? I guess “elite colleges” doesn’t mean what it used to mean.